The Toronto Maple Leafs led the Calgary Flames through two periods and appeared to be well positioned to win their third straight road game, but as has been the case many times this season, a slow beginning to start a period and the Leafs inability to play effective defensively led to three Calgary goals in a span of two and a half minutes and a 4-2 loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.
John Tavares and Mitch Marner scored for Toronto in the loss, which has the Leafs 2-1-0 on their four-game road trip and the finale against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before returning home to face Buffalo on Tuesday.
“We didn't really get a chance to get started in the period at all. (We) lose the faceoff and then we get first touch on it in our zone and they end up getting it back and it's in our net.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “That's what we'd like to have back. Obviously not the way we wanted to go in that third period.”
Unlike his standout performance against Vancouver on Tuesday, Frederik Andersen failed to make the big save in the final 20 minutes and perhaps began to show some fatigue in his sixth straight start, making just 20 stops on the night.
“We look at the game the other night and what we gave up in the third period, Freddie was there for us and we got out of that game clean. In the second period, I thought we got out of that period clean again and we probably didn't deserve to.” Keefe said. “We score a goal and give ourselves a lead and a chance to go in the third and the chance to sort of redeem ourselves and take care of it. It doesn't go our way right from the start. So, as I said, the game works in funny ways and teaches you lessons along the way. Just another sign that we've got a long way to go as a group.”
Unlike their wins in St. Louis and Vancouver, where Toronto got production from their top two lines and their special teams, the Tavares line was the only one that was able to get on the scoreboard. Kasperi Kapanen was moved to the line with Auston Matthews and William Nylander, but they were mostly ineffective. Kapanen played his worst hockey when playing the left side with Tavares and Marner earlier in the season, and once again struggled on the off wing.
Toronto’s power play has improved in nine games under Keefe, but could not convert on a 1:35 two-man advantage to get back into the game after falling behind by two goals.
“Instead of just keeping our composure and staying in our structure, we're running around and then it compounds the problem.” Keefe said. “We just didn't have a lot of guys who had good games today. We had one line I thought that was outstanding. After that I don't think -- it would be hard to find guys who had a good day today.”
The Leafs have returned forward Nic Petan to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, which could be an indicator that forward Trevor Moore is ready to return on Saturday.
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